LARSON: Photographer focuses on leading others to walk in a park

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

You never know what path your life will take. Nor how many. A few weeks ago I wrote about Anna Huthmaker of Duluth who just wanted to take a hike with a group without feeling self-conscious about being a bit curvy, as she describes herself. She ended up organizing a hiking club for other curvy women.

Hiking was the farthest thing from Frank Sharp’s mind until just about eight months ago.

“On Dec. 12, 2009, I was driving on Duluth Highway headed to my son’s graduation at Georgia Tech,” Sharpe wrote to me. “I suddenly felt strange and sick so I turned the car around and checked myself into the emergency room at Gwinnett Medical Center. I told them that I thought that I had a heart attack.”

As it turned out, Sharp made the correct diagnosis. The emergency staff at Gwinnett Medical transferred him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he had a stent implanted.

“As you may know, the first heart attack is also the last heart attack 60 percent of the time,” Sharp said, indicating how fortunate he felt to have survived this trauma.

Of course, he was open to any suggestions to decrease the odds of it happening again and eagerly followed his doctor’s advice to start walking more. But he didn’t just roam aimlessly through his neighborhood or trudge on a treadmill in his basement. He set a goal of walking the trails of every park in Gwinnett County and incorporated these walks into a longtime hobby.

“My hobby is photography,” the 69-year-old retiree said. “I have had two shows here in Gwinnett County on China and the Mediterranean at the George Pierce Park in Suwanee.”

Now China and the Mediterranean may have offered a lot in the way of the exotic, but Sharpe found more than enough beauty to focus on right here in the county.

“On each walk, I took along my new Canon high definition camera and made a video of each trail of the park. As you may know, in 2008 Gwinnett County won the golden award for having the best park system in the nation,” Sharp reminded me.

“It took me about three months to make a video of all the parks that have trails. Now there are 40 videos of mine out there on YouTube. At the end of each video, I try to give good hiking advice especially for hikers who have health or walking problems such as the steepness of the land and open shade since they might need a hat or umbrella during our hot summer days.”

So not only did Sharp take a walk in the park — actually 40 of them — but he also prepared the way for anyone who would like to follow in his footsteps.

You can view Sharp’s Walk in the Park videos on www.youtube.com. Enter Gwinnett County Parks by Frank in the search box.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.